Butterfly Pull-ups are a variation of the pull-up popularized by Crossfit, which involves using momentum to converse energy and time to complete more reps in a shorter amount of time.
Butterfly Pullups | Are They Worth It?
What are Butterfly Pull-ups?
Kipping Pullups vs Butterfly Pull-ups
Thinking of Kipping Pullup like a S-shape where as butterfly pull-up is more of 0-shape pattern. In a butterfly pullup your body moves in a circle pattern and never stops.
Therefore, it is quicker to perform than a kipping pull-up.
Pros of Butterfly Pull-ups
1) Fast and More Efficient Reps:
In a strict pull up, you are ending each rep in a dead hang, meaning you muscles must use its energy to create motion and movement.
However in a butterfly pull up you are reusing the energy much like a swing that can go up and down.
Furthermore, you are also using your abs and hip flexors in a butterfly pull up to create momentum and propulsion which saves your arms from having to do all the work.
Using you abs and hip flexors for propulsion also allows you to pull faster therefore saving time.
Because you are conserving energy in a butterfly pull up, you can do a lot more repetitions with the same amount of effort.
In a Crossfit competition where they accept any pull up as long as the chin is above the plane of the bar, that means butterfly pull-ups will allow you to complete the reps faster and easier. to be more competitive.
They are essential to remain competitive in the sport.
The most pull-ups performed in one minute by a woman is 34, however the most butterfly pull-ups performed is over 60 as shown by the video below.
Cons of Butterfly Pull-ups
1) Higher Risk of Injury
Butterfly pull-ups require you to drop down from the top of the pull-up. This can be hard on your muscles, joints and connective tissue. In fact, the energy transferred between each rep will be stored in your joints and connective tissue in a similar fashion to a rubber band.
2) Not optimal for strength and hypertrophy
In a butterfly pull-up you’re not slowing and controlling the eccentric portion which is generally known to be where muscle growth is induced.
Furthermore, there is a lack of mind muscle connection since the you are using a lot of momentum in the butterfly pull-up.
Lastly, the exercise is lower intensity for the target muscles since the butterfly pull-up is essentially a full body workout which also utilized the abs and legs to generate momentum.
How to Perform Butterfly Pullups
Grab the bar.
For a butterfly pullup, we recommend a grip slightly wider than shoulder width.
Using grips, can be helpful as the butterfly pull-ups require a lot turning of the hands that can lead to tears.
Thumb under bar is better otherwise you may fall off the bar and hurt yourself!
Start at a dead hang and get into an arched postion, while pushing your chest in and letting go of the arch, pull up and at the top of the movement, try to roll forward to get back in the arched dead hang position.
Keep your chin up and away from the bar
Get in the rhythm. Timing is key for this exercise, once you get in the rhythm the butterfly pull-ups will feel like a breeze.
Lastly, when doing all this, don't bend your knees!
Butterfly Pullup Drills
We understand it may take some practice to get a hang of this exercise. Therefore here are some drils that canbe helpful in helping you learn the cues and motion of the butterfly pulllup.
One-leg Butterfly Pullup
Place a plyobox under the pullup bar. Put one foot on a plyobox, since you have one foot free and one fixed on the plyobox, you can control your upper body with your fixed leg while you use the free leg to mimic the movement pattern.
No-leg Arm-Only Butterfly Pullup
Place both legs on the plyobox so you have have complete control of both, legs. Try to focus just on getting the right movement pattern for the upper body.
Reverse Bicycle Kicks
The legs of the butterfly pullup follows a movement similar to a reverse bicycle kick, By perfroming reverse bicycle kicks you will get into a groove which will translate to the butterfly pullup.
One you get a hang of the Reverse Bicycle Kicks, try accentuating the upper body movement that you get from momentum from the kicks.
Mini Butterfly Pullups
One you masters the swinging, try bending your arms up bit to performa partial rep butterfly pullup.
Should You Do Butterfly Pull-ups?
As discussed in the procs and cons section, the only benefit of this variation is faster reps. Therefore, we only recommend butterfly pull-ups if you are a crossfitter.
Another exception, is if you're feeling bored of your current training and want to incorporate something new.
About the Author
Remy started calisthenics in 2014 and has mastered advanced movements such as the one arm pull-up, front-lever, one arm muscle-up and more.